Since Steve Jobs left Apple, iTunes guy Eddy Cue has achieved more than rising star status: He's the next Steve Jobs, kind of. The company doesn't really have a replacement visionary with CEO Tim Cook taking on more of a "business executive" than "creative leader" kind of role. And it's unlikely that anyone like Jobs, "the Thomas Edison of our time," will come along anywhere anytime soon. But the logic continues to go something like this: no more visionary, no more Apple as we know it. So, cue Mr. Cue, who's officially the company's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services but gets the guru title — if only because he's the closest thing Apple has to a genius at its leadership bar right now. In a mini-profile today, The Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Lessin calls him a "prime architect of Apple's software strategy and one of the most important product voices at a company where no clear chief product visionary has emerged since Mr. Jobs's death last year."
It's a loose comparison: Cue has taken on more power since Jobs's death, and Jobs led Apple through its last comeback, so Cue should be able to replicate Jobsian genius in his wake. But the logic doesn't necessarily hold up when you get down to Cue's leadership style. Let's take a look:
What Makes Eddy Cue the Next Steve Jobs
- Like Jobs, Cue values uber-secrecy, something Apple has lightened up on during the Cook era.
- He also doesn't feel the need to jump in to new areas, notes Lessin, which the iTunes guru might regret with iTunes looking a bloated old-fogey music service in the age of streaming. (We'll hold judgement on that until iTunes 11 comes out, which might happen today, sources told Lessin.)
- He's also not a Silicon Valley scenester.
- Lessen calls him more of a "strategist and tactician than manager." In other words, he will do anything to get things done, rather than worry about feelings.
- And he has pioneered products that people love.
What Makes Eddy Cue NOT the Next Steve Jobs
- Cue has a creative gene that CEO Tim Cook lacks, but he focuses more on software than hardware. Jobs had a designer's mind; he made things. Cue is best known for talking media people into liking iTunes. (Though Cue does get credit for convincing Apple to go with the iPad Mini, a concept he pushed since January 2011.)
- Cue has some of that infamously blunt Jobsian tone. "He takes a really direct approach," a CEO of a "longtime Apple partner" told Lessin. "He would say: No one would want to do that." But that's not exactly as terrifying as Jobs calling a subordinate a "primitive thinker."
Still, with Scott Forestall (another impressive Apple guy who got the Steve Jobs comparison) gone, Cue has assumed a leadership role that makes him responsible for ensuring much of the the company's continued success with its products. That departure — and a promotion last year — put Cue in charge of Maps, iCloud, iBooks, iAd, the Apple App store, and Siri. He's the fixer-upper at America's biggest company, "fixing company flops," says Lessen. And in the new Apple era, maybe that's just the kind of leader it needs to stay on top.